In this digital age, we have lost sight of what studying entails. Now, I am not saying that everyone has to be a scholar, but I will say that everyone who teaches needs to be a scholar. To evaluate a teaching properly also requires study. Sadly, these days people will say they are studying simply by watching videos or reading teachings on the internet, but this is not studying – this is simply either watching someone describe their studies or give their opinions, based largely on whether or not they actually did the hard work of studying, and whether their presentation accurately reflects what they learned. Studying means that we go beyond the teaching, get to the sources (ie books – multiple sources, not just one), study them and examine their legitimacy. To study means that we have to be able to evaluate the veracity, or truthfulness, of the information and not just assume its truthfulness. Those of us who are middle aged know that studying once meant going to the library and going through many books – and it still does. In my current studies of Ancient Near Eastern pagan rituals, I have like eight main books (and a whole bunch of supplemental sources) I am reading so I can check them against one another and see what is and is not faithful to the original source material they all claim to share.
When I first started out in all this years ago, I didn’t study. I watched a lot of videos, and I did that while I was learning. I wasn’t studying, I was learning. I wasn’t so much of a scholar – because again, the definition of a scholar is a specialist in an area, and that requires serious study over many years. I still do not consider myself a scholar, to be very honest.
Now there is nothing wrong with learning, we all start learning and most people will just stay at the learning level. But teachers are different, they have a responsibility – and when someone says they have been studying for years but are really just watching videos and never checking the sources or asking the hard questions and demanding answers, then they aren’t studying at all. And we have to be careful when we say we study, because it gives an air of legitimacy to what we are saying. When I teach in person, I try to be very careful – if someone asks a question of me in an area I haven’t studied I will tell them I am not qualified to teach on that subject, or I will give some information on related subjects that I have studied.
I teach Biblical context at a very basic level because I really love being with the new people, it’s my passion – I learned to do that by the examples of Rico Cortes at Wisdom in Torah ministries and Lee Miller of the House of David Fellowship. I bought their videos and listened to and watched how they taught, I started checking out their sources and even when I disagreed with their conclusions I found them to be faithfully representing their material. They are not only teachers but scholars of Biblical context. I promote their teachings because they have earned credibility with me.
It seems like a great number of people want to be experts but very few people want to study. Maybe it’s because learning isn’t seen as valuable, and maybe people think that they aren’t valuable unless they are an expert in something. But how often does the Bible speak of teachers and how often does the Bible speak of those who care for their neighbors? Why do we place an emphasis on being a know it all on social media and in our congregations when the weightier matters of Torah are being neglected? Better to have a million practicing mercy and taking care of the least of these and only one thousand teachers than to have a million teachers and only one thousand caring for the least of these.
Not everyone is a scholar, or a teacher, and thank heavens for that because the poor would go unclothed and the orphans uncared for and the widows would starve because the teachers and scholars don’t get paid nearly enough to support them all. Are we looking to be great in the Kingdom, faithful servants, or are we looking to be the center of attention and an authority figure? My kids are growing up, I have the time, temperament, resources and freedom to study and I take the responsibility very seriously – but I can’t study everything. I can’t be an expert in everything. I still need my other teachers to teach me in my areas of lacking until I have the time to study what they are teaching for myself. Until I do study what they teach, for myself, I am simply a learner in those areas, not a studier yet, and certainly no expert. And that’s okay, because when someone asks me a question about one of their areas of expertise, I can send the questioner to them – and since I know they actually study, I can feel safe in doing that.
So, I honor my teachers, because they study, but I also honor those who care for their neighbors, because they are doing the works of Torah. One group certainly as more notoriety, but what they do not have is more respect in my eyes. Being known is not as excellent as being a servant – not in a million years. And I think we are going to have one great big long stretch of eternal life to recognize it.
Be something amazing in someone’s life – encourage them, rejoice with them, mourn with them, feed them, clothe them, shelter them. You can’t go wrong with those things, but you can go wrong with teaching, and if you haven’t actually done the real hard work of studying then please approach it with fear and trembling. I can tell you from personal experience the deep regrets I feel from having, in the past, taught things that I have not actually studied, but claimed I had just because I saw someone say it on a video and they sounded good. Be careful – someone’s faith is in your hands.
1. the devotion of time and attention to acquiring knowledge on an academic subject, especially by means of books.
“the study of English”
synonyms: learning, education, schooling, academic work, scholarship, tuition, research; informalcramming
“two years of study”
study as pursued by one person.
plural noun: studies
“some students may not be able to resume their studies”
an academic book or article on a particular topic.
plural noun: studies
“a study of Jane Austen’s novels”
synonyms: essay, article, work, review, paper, dissertation, disquisition
“a critical study”
used in the title of an academic subject.
plural noun: studies
“a major in East Asian studies”
2. a detailed investigation and analysis of a subject or situation.
“a study of a sample of 5,000 children”
synonyms: investigation, inquiry, research, examination, analysis, review, survey
“a study of global warming”
a portrayal in literature or another art form of an aspect of behavior or character.
“a study of a man devoured by awareness of his own mediocrity”
a thing that is or deserves to be investigated; the subject of an individual’s study.
“I have made it my study to examine the nature and character of the Indians”
the object or aim of someone’s endeavors.
“the acquisition of a fortune is the study of all”
a person who learns a skill or acquires knowledge at a specified speed.
“I’m a quick study”
verb: study; 3rd person present: studies; past tense: studied; past participle: studied; gerund or present participle: studying
1. devote time and attention to acquiring knowledge on (an academic subject), especially by means of books.
“she studied biology and botany”
synonyms: learn, read, be taught
“he studied electronics”
investigate and analyze (a subject or situation) in detail.
“he has been studying mink for many years”
synonyms: investigate, inquire into, research, look into, examine, analyze, explore, review, appraise, conduct a survey of
“Thomas was studying child development”
apply oneself to study.
“he spent his time listening to the radio rather than studying”
synonyms: work, review; More
acquire academic knowledge at an educational establishment.
“he studied at the Kensington School of Art”